China: Bird flu H7N9 has arrived in Beijing

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Chinese New Year favors the spread of H7N9 infections

Avian flu (H7N9) is currently threatened by further spread in China, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In any case, human infections with the H7N9 virus are on the rise in China. In the course of the Chinese New Year, the spread could also accelerate significantly, as millions of people and poultry are currently moving across the country, according to the FAO. The neighboring countries are therefore also called for increased vigilance.

Since the end of December, “the number of human infections with H7N9 in east and south-east China has increased significantly,” reports the FAO, citing information from the World Health Organization (WHO). However, this increase was initially not a cause for concern, since influenza viruses traditionally show increased activity in the winter months. With the New Year's celebration, however, the spread of the H7N9 viruses can increase significantly, fears the FAO. The infections would most likely be caused by close contact with infected live poultry. Bird markets therefore have a significantly increased risk of infection. But there is also an increased risk of infection in domestic bird slaughter, which is still common in China today.

So far H7N9 infections only in China
So far, the WHO and the FAO have assumed that human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 virus is not possible. However, there is still a danger that the virus will adapt accordingly and that it will subsequently be possible to pass it on personally. However, genetic analyzes by the WHO and the FAO reference centers would have shown that the virus has not changed significantly since it was created last year. So far, the spread of the pathogens seems to have been limited to China. There are still no proven H7N9 infections in humans or animals in other countries, according to the FAO. However, the neighboring countries of China should be particularly attentive to bird flu viruses at the moment, warned the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

Recommended protective measures against bird flu
FAO chief veterinarian Juan Lubroth said that the Chinese authorities have implemented a number of important measures to reduce the risk of human contact with the H7N9 virus. According to Lubroth, this includes "temporary closings of bird markets, regular market rest days, improved hygiene in the markets, ongoing monitoring of poultry and live birds in the market environment and the control of movements of poultry." However, despite all security measures, the Chinese New Year threatens to spread the germ. It is also critical that the viruses circulate in the poultry population without causing visible clinical symptoms. In this way, people can become infected without the danger being recognizable. Here the FAO recommends various protective measures to both producers and consumers in order to avoid infection. According to the FAO, people's living areas should be strictly separated from the birds' living areas. Regular hand washing is also advisable, not only after handling the poultry, but also before and after the preparation of dishes.

The risk of increased spread remains
Good hygiene practices in processing and preparing poultry meat are, according to the FAO, mandatory anyway. In addition, "only well-cooked meat products (food 70 degrees Celsius or more in all parts) should be consumed". The consumption of raw meat and raw blood should be avoided urgently. Sick or dead animals should be reported to the local veterinarian or the authorities. If symptoms such as fever or cough occur after contact with breeding birds, wild birds or other animals, a doctor should be called in immediately, the FAO continues. Because "the risk for people remains, especially in the coming months and especially during the Chinese New Year holidays," emphasized Juan Lubroth. (fp)

Image: Gerd Altmann, Pixelio

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